- Published: July 10, 2019
Legal Policy Starting Point
Georgia continues to pursue its path of European integration and is already engaged in implementation of the Association Agenda that was defined within the framework of the Association Agreement between Georgia and the EU. Papers on necessary legislative amendments have already been developed or legal reforms initiated in numerous areas such as public procurements, customs and trade, intellectual property rights or company law as a means of harmonisation with EU law. Nevertheless, this progress and the effects of the flourishing tourism sector remain largely unnoticeable in the economic situation of large sections within society.
It follows, therefore, that the domestic situation in Georgia during the reporting year was marked by turbulence. Among other things, the General Public Prosecutor resigned from office in response to a controversial case within the criminal justice system that had triggered widespread outrage in civil society. Facing sustained protest and embroiled in dispute within his own party, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili from the ruling “Georgian Dream” Alliance ultimately stepped down as well. He was succeeded by the former Finance Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, who carried out a cabinet reshuffle and reduced the number of departments, but otherwise has not initiated any major reform steps. Popular dissatisfaction with the government continued to grow, and the political rifts within the country again became apparent during the presidential elections of October 2018. Although a sweeping constitutional reform had removed any real powers from the political office, the election campaign was acrimonious and in places featured dubious assistance from administrative authorities. Salome Zourabichvili, who is associated with the ruling party, eventually emerged victorious from the run-off at the end of November.
The constitutional reform that had been passed in March entered into force with the presidential inauguration. This reform completes the country‘s transition to a parliamentary system of government. One of the important reforms referred to the appointment of the Chair of the Supreme Court, which until then had been the responsibility of the State President, but from now on will fall within the remit of the High Council of Justice. The position had been vacant since the former chairman, Prof. Nino Gvenetadze, resigned in August 2018. In view of the upcoming constitutional reforms, a conscious decision had been made for the next incumbent not to be chosen by the President so as to avoid creating ‘facts on the ground‘. Among the reasons why this position is so important to the Georgian judiciary is that the chair of the court also holds the Chair of the High Council of Justice, the self-governing body within the judiciary.
The IRZ continues to focus its efforts in Georgia on the provision of technical support and implementation of the reform projects in criminal law. For legislation projects, this takes place in cooperation with the Parliamentary Legal Issues Committee, as well as with relevant stakeholders within the judiciary, so primarily the Supreme Court and other courts, the General Public Prosecutor‘s Office in Georgia and the Georgian Bar.
Moreover, cooperation also includes meaningful exchange of information between the members of these partner institutions and their German colleagues to discuss legal issues and developments from a comparative perspective. Collaborations with the Tbilisi State University and the law faculties at other universities, as well as with the Penitentiary and Probation Training Center (PPTC), are therefore important elements in the project work.
Foci of Activity in 2018
Constitutional Law/Human Rights and their Enforceability
- National moot court on constitutional law for Georgian law students in Batumi
- Publication on anti-discrimination law
Civil and Commercial Law
- Legal colloquium in cooperation with the German Federal Bar on judgement by default, the burden of proof and other issues of civil procedural law in Tbilisi
- "@mediasocieties Georgia 2018“: introduction to European media law for stakeholders in the Georgian media sector (funded by the Federal Foreign Office)
Administration of Justice
- Working visit to Düsseldorf by a delegation from the Tbilisi City Court (court administration) to learn about the planning of court buildings
- Train the trainer for educators at the Georgian Penitentiary and Probation Training Center (PPTC)
- Legislative advice for the Legal Issues Committee in the Georgian parliament on various planned reforms of the country‘s Code of Criminal Procedure
- Participation in expert talks by the German section of the International Commission of Jurists during a study trip to Georgia
Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law
- Conference on the topic of domestic violence (implementation of the Istanbul Convention) in cooperation with the Tbilisi State University
- Two practical training courses on European standards in investigation methods and pre-trial detention
- Further training for public prosecutors in Tbilisi on policy to combat and investigate corruption
- Courses on the methodical drafting of criminal judgements in courts of first instance in cooperation with the High School of Justice / continued development of the manual (of forms) for judges and public prosecutors
- Conference in Tbilisi on the planned reform of criminal law on narcotics
- Online publication “German-Georgian Criminal Law Journal“
Projects funded by the European Union
EU Technical Assistance Project: Support to the Independence, Accountability and Efficiency of the Judiciary in Georgia
The IRZ has been a partner in this EU-funded project in Georgia since October 2016. During the 41-month term, a consortium led by Human Dynamics (HD) is supporting the Supreme Court, the High Council of Justice, the High School of Justice, the Constitutional Court and other courts in increasing the independence, efficiency and impartiality of the Georgian judiciary.
The IRZ contributes to the project in the areas of European standards for the protection of human rights by dispatching short-term experts, but especially through its Georgian long-term expert, Lali Ckhetia. The aim is to raise awareness for the significance of the European Convention on Human Rights among Georgian judges and to ensure that they consider case-law by the European Court of Human Rights in their decisions. Access to the important ECHR judgements was facilitated for this purpose, and they are now available in a database, some of them with a Georgian translation. There were also seminars for judges in order to train methods of referencing judgements by the ECHR.
In addition, numerous activities during the reporting year were targeted at legal staff at the courts (assistants to the judges and members of the academic service), as their competencies are highly relevant to the quality of case-law and this aspect has been given insufficient consideration in the past.
Another important reform in 2018 was the introduction of an IT system for the allocation of cases at court, similar to the case allocation at a German court. Underlying the introduction of this case allocation system is the intention to prevent the exertion of any influence in the assignment of cases to individual judges and hence to strengthen the independence of the judiciary in Georgia. The system was introduced nationwide on 31 December 2017 and has largely been received as positive and sensible. Nevertheless, it is still dogged by too many technical problems, which necessitate further evaluation and improvements.
EU Technical Assistance Project: Facility for the Implementation of the Association Agreement in Georgia
The IRZ implemented this EU project in Georgia – which is equipped with a budget of €2 million – under the leadership of the Belgian partner IBF from July 2015 onward. It came to an end officially in December 2018.
Within the project, the main beneficiary partner, the Georgian Governmental Commission for EU Integration, received assistance in the implementation of the EU’s bilateral agreements with Georgia (Association Agreement, Free Trade Agreement, Visa Liberalisation Agreement and the Association Agenda). Another objective of the project was to introduce institutional reforms that are necessary for implementation of the bilateral agreements. In addition, the project supported the continued development and realisation of the communications and information strategy by the Georgian government in connection with the bilateral agreements with the EU.
- Overall, ten different training activities, workshops or other events were carried out within the framework of Component 1, including measures to combat fraud, as well as in the areas of culture, disaster management, public relations and presentation, instruments of external assistance and Georgia‘s foreign policies.
- Project Component 2 featured a number of training courses on practical implementation of the Legal Assessment Manual and the guidelines for Georgia, with the objective of consolidating knowledge on the process of legal harmonisation through sector-specific activities designed to consolidate capacities.
- A nationwide information campaign was carried out as part of the activities within Component 3 (implementation of the EU and Georgian communications and information strategy). Moreover, the project was involved in drafting the action plan for the Communications Strategy 2018 concerning Georgia‘s membership in the EU and NATO for 2017 to 2020.
EU Technical Assistance Project: Legislative Impact Assessment, Drafting and Representation
The EU project, which started in April 2015, was brought to a successful conclusion in August 2018. In addition to the IRZ, CILC from the Netherlands was involved as a junior partner in the international consortium under the leadership of IBF from Belgium. The project term was forty months and the budget amounted to approx. €2 million.
The main beneficiary was the Georgian Ministry of Justice, with participation by other state institutions in Georgia. The project was divided into the following three components:
- strengthening of capacities among relevant state stakeholders in the decision-making processes and legislation, with a particular prioritisation of the Georgian Ministry of Justice;
- support for the Ministry of Justice in its representative function toward international courts and organisations;
- strengthening and ongoing development of the Centre for the Translation of Georgian Laws into English, i.e. of EU acts of law with relevance to Georgia into the Georgian language.
More than one hundred activities were carried out within the project components. They included numerous training courses for members of parliament, government representatives and employees of the Ministry of Justice.
In addition to the preparation of guidelines and a manual on harmonising legislation with the EU Acquis, the project also included the development of extensive methods and concepts for regulatory impact assessment, as well as guidelines to improve government capacities in the legislative and decision-making processes.
Large-scale training courses and train the trainer courses were also held within the project to promote harmonisation of legislation and draft legislation; moreover, strategy papers were prepared on a variety of issues as a means of providing insight and recommendations for the basic outlines of future reforms.
In order to guarantee the sustainability of project outcomes, it would be desirable that the government continue its current efforts and that trainers, who specialised within the framework of this project, will act as multipliers.
A number of important projects like the preparation of a manual of forms for the judiciary and Public Prosecutor‘s Office should continue and be brought to a positive conclusion. A strengthening of the proven cooperation with the Bar is also under consideration. For instance, this might enable the inclusion of courses by German lawyers as an integral part of legal training, for which the Georgian Bar is responsible and which is currently undergoing fundamental reform.
A large number of activities are also scheduled within the EU project on judiciary reform. For instance, the High Council of Justice will receive stronger support in implementing the judicial reform strategy; this will also involve communicating the content and significance of this strategy to the judiciary at national level. Moreover, a new fundament will be established for the recruitment and management of judiciary staff through the introduction of uniform, clear standards and guidelines.